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The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) recognized 53 tree growers and conservationists for their passion and efforts to encourage tree planting across the country during the inaugural ceremony. Timothy Lidjodi Luvongo from Kakamega County was declared the overall winner of the Awards Scheme besides being the best individual in tree planting and conservation. The beneficiaries were drawn from all the 47 counties to appreciate their efforts towards tree planting and conservation initiatives in different geographical regions.

The awardees, described as champions of conservation, received recognition certificates and plaques. They included individuals, schools, pastoralists, farmers, civil organizations, community groups, state agencies, corporates, tea factories and some counties. The First Lady was recognized for her continued support in tree growing in schools and other conservation initiatives she is involved in.

The awards targeted individuals, schools, community groups, corporate bodies, and Counties and were categorized as follows: Best individual in tree growing and forest conservation; Best School in tree growing; Best community based groups in tree growing and forest conservation; Best large -scale commercial tree farmers; Best forest industry players in forest development, conservation and management; Best Corporate/ State agency in forest conservation and management; Unsung Heroes for an outstanding individual inspiring positive change in forest conservation and management; Best County in tree planting and forest conservation and Overall award that was awarded to the best overall winner.

The presentation took place at KFS Headquarters in Karura and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, presided over ceremony. It was attended by Prof. Judi Wakhungu Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Principal Secretary Dr. Margaret Mwakima of State Department of Natural Resources, Chairman Mr. Peter Kinyua of the Kenya Forest Service Board and Mr. Emilio Mugo the Chief Conservator of Forests, representatives of various development partners and the chair-person of the Parliamentary Environmental Committee, Amina Abdalla. RCMRD was represented by Dorah Nesoba (Communication and Outreach Expert) and Kenneth Kasera (User Engagement Lead).

The Tree Growing and Forest Conservation Award Scheme has been inaugurated when the country is experiencing a declining forest cover that currently stands at 7.4 per cent against the globally accepted 10 per cent national cover. The scheme also coincided with the 10th anniversary of the KFS. Cabinet Secretary Prof. Wakhungu said the greatest pressure on our forests was being exerted by the 70 per cent of Kenyans who depend on fuel wood. She said the forest cover had increased from 6.3 percent in 2010 to 7.4 percent after the concerted efforts by her Ministry and other stakeholders. The target, she said is reaching 10 per cent before the year 2030.

Speaking at the ceremony at ceremony held at KFS headquarters in Karura Forest, Nairobi Mrs. Kenyatta said the survival of human beings in highly dependent on the sustainability efforts of the entire ecosystem. She however said human actions, short term and sometimes selfish motivations had negatively impacted, threatened or endangered our fragile forest cover. “This ceremony will remind us that we are all dependent on the environment and that the role our ancestors have played in the past, the role we play today, and the role our children will play in the future is extremely vital to our human survival,” she added.

Mrs. Kenyatta congratulated the awardees saying they had discovered the intricate balance of appreciating the true potential of the forests and reconciling their economic efforts with sustainability values. She cited the huge benefits and the various roles that forests play all over the world including being sources for the critical carbons, fuel and contributing towards poverty reduction in the rural areas. The forests also play a key role to balance nature. “Forests are what has been described as the ‘lungs of the earth’ – purifying the air we breathe, regulating our climate and protecting the soils from destructive erosion”, she said.

Content for this article provided by Dorah Nesoba, Communications and Outreach Expert (RCMRD/SERVIR-Eastern & Southern Africa).

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